University May Start Drug Testing Cheerleaders After Tragic Death

By McCarton Ackerman 08/01/14

Danielle Cogwell's "suspected overdose" death last week has prompted calls to change Louisville's drug policy.

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Dani Cogwell on the right. Photo via

After the tragic death of University of Louisville cheerleader Danielle Cogwell, the campus could be among the first to start drug testing cheerleaders.

The 22-year-old, who passed away on July 28, is having her death treated as a “suspected overdose.” The Louisville Metro Police Department is only conducting a death investigation and there is no suspicion of foul play surrounding her death. Todd Sharp, head coach of the university’s spirit team, said in a statement that Cogwell “had a contagious smile and a spirit that would ignite the room. She will be greatly missed.”

Cheerleaders are not subject to the university’s drug testing policy because the NCAA does not consider it to be a varsity sport, but the campus associate athletic director of student life, Christine Simatacolos, said they could revise that stance. She said that the university will “look into all of our policies related to our support services and how we reach out to students who might be in crisis.” A policy posted on a university website also notes that cheerleaders are still subject to random drug testing and that a positive test will “result in removal from the squad”

Louisville sports information director Kenny Klein also noted that the cheerleaders still have access to all of the treatment and counseling programs offered to athletes. Drug and alcohol education is also included in the annual orientation for new student athletes, which spirit team members are also required to go through.

A spokeswoman for the National Cheerleader Organization also confirmed that they have no policies on drug testing for cheerleading squads and do not regulate individual cheerleaders.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.